My eyes snagged on the ring on the Captain’s left hand as he rubbed it all over Melissa’s nearly bare back. Ewww, I thought. I hated that. I didn’t understand why people got married, and then acted like that. But it certainly knocked my opinion of Melissa down even further. There was no way she had missed the wedding ring on his finger if I had seen it from several feet away. Hell, she probably felt it on her back, he was rubbing her so hard with it.
I made an easy decision to just try to ignore them for the duration of the evening. They were a major buzz-kill.
I noticed with a little dismay that the first officer, Jeff, had ended up standing by my chair, his body angled towards me. He smiled at me as I noticed him. He waved at the glasses in front of me. “What’re you drinking? It looks like a good time.”
I told him, and he stepped closer as I spoke. I moved back a bit. I hated when people tried to casually touch me, and he just seemed like the type to try it.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, after he had downed his own shot, he reached out a hand, touching a strand of my hair. I shrank back just a little. “I love your hair.” He was nearly shouting over the rowdy crowd. “It looks so hot when you wear it down.”
I turned away from him at that, finishing my current round of drinks. Yes, it was official. I was drunk. I caught Stephan and Melvin sharing a look, and I knew exactly what it meant. Stephan was trying to tell Melvin to cut off my alcohol.
I glared, leaning closer to him. I pointed a finger at his chest threateningly. “Don’t you dare. I barely ever drink, and I really need to relax tonight. This is the first time in days that I’ve been able to unwind and just forget about Mr. Beautiful.”
Stephan had looked ready to argue until that last embarrassing sentence left my mouth. But as I finished, he sputtered out a laugh. “Mr. Beautiful?”
I nodded, and he laughed harder. “Well, he is. James Cavendish is too damned beautiful to be real. He scares the shit outta me,” I confided.
Stephan stopped laughing at that. “Why?” he asked seriously.
I shook my head. “Not like that. A different kind of scary. I haven’t figured it out. All I know for sure is, I need to stay the hell away from Mr. Beautiful.” I over-enunciated the last sentence so much that, even drunk, I noticed it.
Stephan’s eyes widened as he looked at a spot above and behind me.
“What?” I asked him in a loud, belligerent tone. Yes, I was definitely drunk. “What? Is Mr. Beautiful standing behind me or something?”
Stephan pursed his lips and I suddenly had an awful feeling that I’d hit that one right on the head. I turned my spinning head around and looked up, and up, into bright blue eyes. “Hello, Mr. Beautiful,” I said in a quieter, but still obviously drunk, voice.
I spun almost immediately to glare at Stephan. “Traitor,” I said to him, my words slurred.
He threw his hands up, giving me his innocent look. “I didn’t give out your number or anything. He asked if we were going out tonight. I just told him where. No harm done.”
I mouthed a few choice words at him. I felt a hard cheek press to the hair near my ear and knew it was Mr. Beautiful himself. “Mr. Beautiful, huh?” he whispered in my ear. I knew my whole body was bright red with embarrassment. “I’m going to take that as a compliment, though I have to say, it’s a new one.”
“Hello, Mr. Cavendish,” I said stiffly, without turning.
“I told you, call me James. Or Mr. Beautiful, if you prefer. You can save the Mr. Cavendish for when we’re in private.” It was the second time he’d said that, and I just couldn’t tell if he was teasing. Did I even want to know? I wondered. No, I told myself firmly.
I tried to just ignore everyone for awhile after that. Except for Melvin. Him, I tried to flag down to get another drink, but he was ignoring me. Vaguely, I could hear Stephan and James chatting amiably at my back.
James hadn’t moved, and he was standing close enough to my back to indicate that he and I were together. He was so close that it made the skin of my back tingle. If I shifted even an inch backward, we’d be touching.
I turned my head slightly and saw that the co-pilot had been forced to move away from me. He was looking between Stephan and James, an odd look on his face. He didn’t know what to make of the situation. I didn’t really care what he made of it. I was just relieved that he seemed to get the picture that I was clearly not available.
I lurched suddenly to my feet. I had expected to be a little unsteady on my feet, but it was much worse than I’d thought. I had to clutch the bar for several moments to gain my balance.
“Whoa, careful there, Buttercup,” Stephan was saying to me.
I felt a hard arm going around my waist for support, and I knew it wasn’t Stephan. “Buttercup?” James asked him, his voice amused.
I looked at Stephan, who was looking a little sheepish. “It’s an old nickname, from when we were kids. Bee will have to tell you the story sometime.”
“I look forward to it. Does she drink like this often?” James asked casually, but I thought there was a slight edge to his voice. He was still just talking to Stephan. About me, and in front of me. It was infuriating.
“All the time,” I said loudly.
“This is the first time she’s had a drink since the month she turned twenty-one,” Stephen said quietly. “At least two years ago.”
James’s mouth was at my ear again. “You remember what I told you about lying to me,” he warned softly. “That’s two.”
He’d said he’d put me over his knee. “He’s a kinky bastard,” I thought drunkenly.
Oops, I’d said that out loud. Luckily, only James had heard. He laughed, showing even white teeth. He hadn’t taken it as an insult. He nodded at me, making very solid eye contact. He agreed.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I declared loudly.
“I’ll help you get there, Buttercup,” James told me. Stephan rose as we moved, as though to help. James waved him down. “I’ve got her.”
And he did. He wrapped my arm around him and took the brunt of my weight as he led me effortlessly through the crowd toward the restrooms.
“Why are you here?” I asked him bluntly.
“Well, I came here because I very much want to fuck you until neither of us can walk. I want you so bad I can’t see straight. But since that won’t be happening now, I’m staying to make sure you make it back to your room in one piece.”
“Why won’t that be happening now?” I asked him. I knew it was a bad question, one that implied that I was disappointed that it wouldn’t be happening, but I was just too drunk and curious to care.
He looked at me, brow raised. “I won’t touch you while you’re impaired. Never. I just don’t do that.”
“So you give up?” I challenged, but it came out as more of a whine.
He surprised me by kissing the top of my head. “Far from it. I still intend to fuck you senseless. Just not tonight, Buttercup. And I’d appreciate it if you could refrain from ever getting yourself into this condition again.” His arms and the kiss had been soft and sweet, but his words and his tone were icy.
What a strange man, I thought. How could someone sound so cold while calling me Buttercup?
I stopped suddenly. We were against the wall now, close to the hallway that led to the restrooms. I turned in his arms, pressing up against him. He sucked in a breath at the sudden contact. I looked into his eyes. He looked back, his eyes hard. “Yes?” he asked me sharply.
“My condition isn’t your business, James.” I emphasized his name. It was the first time I’d used it.
His gaze was steady. “I intend for it to be my business.”
“You don’t want to date me, you said,” I told him.
He sighed. “It’s true. But I want other things. I at least want the chance to talk to you about what I do want.”
“So talk,” I told him.
“We will talk. When you’re sober. And when we have some actual privacy.”
I wagged a finger at him, then stood on my tiptoes to be sure he heard me as I spoke directly into his face. “That doesn’t sound like talking.” My words were slurred, and he visibly flinched.
He hated how drunk I was, I could tell. He had a real serious problem with it. My extremely drunk mind started to hatch up a drunk scheme to use that to my advantage. If he didn’t like drunk, I would show him some drunk behavior that would scare him off for good. I nodded at him, turning away. Just as soon as I went to the bathroom, I was gonna make him run the other way in a hurry.
I used the restroom. It was a sign of how drunk I was that I was proud when I used the bathroom successfully and without a mess.
I was washing up when Melissa came bursting through the door, looking excited. “Who is that gorgeous man?” she asked me breathlessly. She was the most animated I’d ever seen her without a man she liked in the room. Of course, that’s just because she happened to be talking about one right at that moment.
I didn’t have to ask who she was talking about. “That is Mr. Beautiful,” I said. I was going for a breezy tone, but I heard my voice, and knew it just sounded drunk and slurred.
I walked out before she could ask me anything else. James took my arm before I could even locate him. “Have you ever been so drunk that you can’t look yourself in the eyes when you see a mirror?” I asked him. It was a serious question. I was really that drunk. He just looked at me.
“Answer me, James,” I tried to order him.
“No,” he said immediately.
“Dance with me,” I told him. Time for operation ‘Hot Mess’. He hated drunk. I’d show him drunk.
“No,” he said firmly.
“Fine. Somebody’ll dance with me. Just you watch.” His hand tightened on my arm when I tried to walk away.
“No, they won’t. If you have to dance, it’ll be by yourself tonight.”
I gasped at him in outrage. I was momentarily distracted when we walked back out into the huge bar and found it had considerably less people than it had when we went in.
“Whats’appened to all the people?” I asked. My slur was getting more pronounced, but I couldn’t seem to help it. I looked at him. He just shrugged. “Is it that late?” I pondered, reaching into my small handbag for my phone. “Where’s ma’phone?” I mumbled.
“You left it at the bar,” he told me. I started to lurch in that direction. He stayed me, holding my phone in front of my face. “I grabbed it for you.”
I snatched it from him, glaring. I glanced at the face of it, pushing the front button to show the time. “S’only eight clock. Why d’ya spose everyone is leaving? Is something happening? Are they closing?”
His only answers were shrugs. His hands were in his pockets. I studied him, suddenly realizing how bored and detached he looked. I recalled what he’d said about only sticking around to make sure I got back in one piece. “You don’t have to stay here. I’m just fine.”